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Obama Executive Actions On Immigration Reform May Be Unstoppable

Even if President Obama tests the bounds of his power with big, unilateral moves he’s promising on immigration, there may be no way to stop him, reports Politico. Lawyers are debating the legality of a series of immigration-related executive actions the White House is reportedly considering, but there’s broad agreement suing the president isn’t likely to work. “The court route: I don’t see it,” said Jan Ting, a top immigration official under President George H.W. Bush who opposes Obama’s expected moves.

Legal experts see any challenge to immigration policy changes headed for the same roadblock facing House Speaker John Boehner’s planned suit over Obamacare implementation delays: finding a way to show the injury needed to press a case in the federal courts. Responding to inaction in the House on immigration reform, Obama has signaled to immigrants’ rights advocates he plans to take significant new executive actions to overhaul the immigration system. They could range from reordering the priority list of deportation cases to dramatically expanding the “deferred action” program he started in 2012, which allows immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally as children to apply for a two-year deportation reprieve.

 

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States Pass New Gun Laws, Prompting Some Firearms Makers To Head South

For more than a century, America’s gun makers were clustered near the East Coast. Today, after new gun legislation in states including Maryland, many are moving South, reports Scripps Media. Beretta USA is moving all of its U.S. manufacturing from Accokeek, Md. to Gallatin, Tn., bringing at least 300 jobs after being wooed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Beretta’s decision to head South traces in part to the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Ct. In the political furor that followed, Maryland banned 45 types of assault weapons and put in place tough fingerprint, photo identification and training requirements. Beretta viewed the restrictions as the legislative equivalent of a declaration of war on its operations.

Shotgun maker O.F. Mossberg & Sons is expanding not in its home of North Haven, Ct., but in Eagle Pass, Tx., after being courted by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Colt Manufacturing is moving its Colt Competition AR-15 rifle production from West Hartford, Ct., to Breckenridge, Tx. The company cited new legislation that outlaws some of its products in Connecticut as the reason for the shift. PTR Industries left Connecticut for South Carolina. Others have moved to North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, and many more are looking to make moves, said Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the U.S. firearms industry.

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NYC Federal Judge To Shorten Mandatory Sentence On His Own

Francois Holloway has spent nearly two decades of a 57-year sentence in a federal prison, for serious crimes that no one disputes he committed, says the New York Times. The fairness of the mandatory sentence has been a matter of dispute, not only for Holloway, but also for a surprising advocate: the trial judge, John Gleeson. As Holloway filed one motion after another trying to get his sentence and his case re-evaluated, Gleeson, of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, began to speak out against those mandatory sentences that he believed were unduly harsh. Holloway’s 57-year term was more than twice the average sentence in the district for murder in 1996, the year he was sentenced. Gleeson asked U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch to vacate two of Holloway’s convictions. Today, Gleeson is expected to order Holloway freed.

“Prosecutors also use their power to remedy injustices,” Gleeson said yesterday. “Even people who are indisputably guilty of violent crimes deserve justice, and now Holloway will get it.” Sentencing experts characterized Judge Gleeson’s effort as exceptional, saying it could be a blueprint for judges who want to revisit sentences that are legally required but, in their view, unjustifiably long. “The normal attitude has been, ‘This is terrible, but the law is the law,’ ” said Douglas Berman, a sentencing expert at Ohio State University, referring to severe sentences. Rather than “waiting for Congress to act or waiting for the president to grant massive clemency,” he said, Judge Gleeson appears to believe that this is a problem that federal prosecutors and judges “not only ought to be tackling, but are better positioned to tackle.”

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With 336 Unsolved Murders In 10 Years, Boston Lags On Clearance Rate

The Boston Police Department is carrying a grim ledger of 336 unsolved murder cases from the past 10 years, a period that saw the city consistently lagging behind the national average for cracking cases despite repeated changes in strategies and leadership, a Boston Herald review found. The stunning total of unsolved cases encompasses 2004 to 2013, when gun-toting gangbangers, thieves and trigger-happy teens, among others, killed 628 people across the dozen neighborhoods patrolled by Boston cops.

During those years, police arrested, charged or formally identified suspects in 47 percent of the homicides. Their success varied wildly according to the race, gender and neighborhood of the victim, even as they managed to lower the murder total dramatically in the process. Boston recorded only 40 homicides last year, a one-third drop from 2012. The review of year-by-year data shows that Black men were slain at 10 times the rate of white men. Of the city’s 628 victims, 410 were black males and 38 were white males. Police solved only 38 percent of the murders of black males compared to 79 percent for the slayings of white men; Guns were killers’ weapon of choice, used 469 times to commit, and often get away with, murder. Despite vast investments in technology, the shooter was caught only 37 percent of the time.

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Are Milwaukee Children Safe? Writer Cites Gun Seizures, Child Abuse Cases

Do many of Milwaukee's kids have a chance to avoid violence, asks Police Chief Edward Flynn after a shooting that injured a 10-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, writes Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist James Causey. The kids were put in harm's way when a man, driving a van with seven children and their mother, allegedly got into a gunfight with another man. The shooting last week came a day after the burial of 10-year-old Sierra Guyton, who was shot during a dispute between two men at an elementary school playground.

Too many children are dying and being critically injured due to the negligence of adults, says Causey, who notes that too many felons have guns in Milwaukee. Flynn said in New York, a city of nearly 9 million, police confiscated 1,350 guns off the streets as of July 6. In Milwaukee, with a population of 600,000, Milwaukee police have confiscated 1,340 guns this year. Also, in the latest Milwaukee child shooting, their mother had been charged with child neglect. The state Department of Children and Families said it has a backlog of nearly 3,000 child abuse cases in Milwaukee.

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8.2 Million Pot Arrests Called "Aggressive Enforcement Of Pointless Laws

Continuing its series of editorials advocating the legalization of marijuana, the New York Times laments the billions of dollars "thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws." The newspaper cites years "wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless" and "lives ...damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses."

From 2001 to 2010, police around the U.S. made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes combined. The Times quotes the American Civil Liberties Union estimate that enforcing laws on marijuana possession costs $3.6 billion annually. In the newspaper's view, the arrest strategy is "largely futile." After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage of the drug. Roughly 30 million Americans consume marijuana every year. Police forces are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime.

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In Alabama, Judges Override Juries, Sentence Murderers To Death

When Courtney Lockhart was tried for murder in Alabama, the jury unanimously recommended a life sentence, but the judge overrode that recommendation and sentenced Lockhart to death. Now he is asking the state Supreme Court to examine Alabama's unique process of judicial override, NPR reports.  Alabama is an outlier. It's the only state in which judges routinely override jury decisions not to impose the death penalty. Judicial overrides in Alabama account for one-fifth of death row prisoners. Thirty such overrides took place in the 1980s; there were 44 in the 1990s, and there have been 27 since 2000.

The U.S. Supreme Court, beginning in 2000, has said that juries must decide all key questions affecting a defendant's sentence. The court has specifically applied that concept to death cases. The result is that judicial overrides have all but faded away. Today only Alabama judges still override jury recommendations of life in prison and sentence defendants to death instead. In Florida and Delaware, laws permit judges to adjust jury-recommended sentences, but both states have abolished judicial overrides in practice.

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TCR at a Glance

Caging Kids ‘Like Animals’

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Five Things About Deterrence

new & notable July 24, 2014

A National Institute of Justice flyer argues that the certainty of punishment, rather than severity, deters crime